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Governor Defends Higher Ed Budget Cuts

Iowa's governor is backing decisions to cut funding for the state's public universities, as some schools' rankings drop.

Iowa’s governor is defending budget cuts to the state’s university system as some schools lose ground in national rankings. 

The University of Iowa dropped seven slots and Iowa State University dropped three slots in new national rankings of public schools by U.S. News & World Report. School administrators are pointing to funding cuts by state leaders. In a written statement, UI President Bruce Harreld characterized lawmakers' actions as a "generational disinvestment in public higher education."

"Resources do matter, and without adequate resources from the state, we aren’t able to make the needed investments in student outcomes that would lead to higher rankings by U.S. News & World Report and other ranking organizations," Harreld's statement reads.

But Gov. Kim Reynolds is standing by the decision.

“Our universities have some additional resources to fund. Our K-12 system didn’t, which is why we held them harmless when we had to do the de-appropriation," Reynolds said.

Those additional resources include student tuition, which has paid for a greater percentage of university budgets as state funding has gone down. While taxpayer dollars used to fund the majority of operations at UI and Iowa State, now students and their families are picking up more of the tab.

Reynolds pointed to past administrations that made deeper cuts to public education, citing Democratic Gov. Chet Culver's decision to cut state funding by 10 percentacross the board during the Great Recession. Speaking at an event in Tiffin Wednesday, Reynolds said her priority is to boost the economy by cutting taxes. 
"If we can continue growing this economy by reducing taxes and regulation and investing in our people so that they get the skills, we’re going to have a whole different conversation about how we fund our priorities,” Reynolds said.

In the meantime, she's encouraging students to consider other alternatives before opting for a four-year university education.

"We’re going to keep working with our colleges and universities to make sure our children are prepared to maybe go into an apprenticeship program, a certification program,” she said.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter